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It’s as if our world in 2020 has turned into some kind of ominous sci-fi movie.
There has been job loss, home loss, business closures, countless deaths, and financial ruin. We’re living in a state of reverse prosperity, encroaching wildfires, shooting, looting, rioting, violence, political wars, and viral hysteria.
We are afraid to breathe the air, running from smoke, viral particles, and each other.
Prior to 2020, we had a future of possibilities and arenas where we could have family gatherings, go out and meet people, give hugs, and sit with each other in a restaurant, park bench, or church pew. Now everyone has to be regarded a potential threat to our health.
We used to have endless choices—now we have endless obstacles to overcome. So how f*cked up is it? Let me count the ways because I want to talk about this—and then try to move on.
Schools are on lockdown, whereas the beginning of each year is supposed to mean excitement for children reuniting after a summer apart. But now they have to face fear.
Instead of being focused on their new school clothes, classes, sports, and school plays, they’re sent into sterilized classrooms keeping their distance from one another, or they’re learning virtually from home with none of the usual in-person socialization that is so necessary for emotional and mental well-being and development.
It’s as if we can hear the laughter of children in the playground that was once so strong, fading into the distance.
And what of love in the age of COVID-19? How does that work? Before, we could meet someone on a first date and end it with a kiss or even sex. We had to be mindful for sure, but not of a disease that will kill us by that same kiss.
What is the future of romance?
The west coast is on fire. I had to be evacuated this year. I remember the fire fighter coming to my house at night with embers and ash floating in the air. He asked me if I was going to be able to get out okay by myself. I reassured him as he took down my name and phone number. Then he said, “Thanks for giving me that info in case we have to identify your dental records.”
Imagine the panic.
And for those of us who aren’t touched by the wildfires, it seems as if the only place we can feel safe is in our own homes. But being isolated at home means being alone. We are cut off from everyone else and cut off we remain if we want to survive—or at least that’s what the current climate of things is suggesting to us.
Will the world ever be safe again? I was talking to a friend the other day, and she told me, “Everything is just so f*cked up now.” She’s depressed all the time now and rarely was before. I think we are all experiencing this low-grade level of depression because the future seems hopeless.
In regards to politics, 2020 is probably being one of the most tumultuous years yet. Have we ever seen such malice, fighting, and “throwing one another under the bus.” It has worked to widen the gap of our already divided country even more, pushing each side into more isolation and diversity—and not the good kind of diversity that allows us all to be different, and yet together in a cohesive way. It’s the kind that drives us into two separate camps, where one half heckles the other, hating, ridiculing, and throwing stones.
I can’t believe how many Facebook friends I had to block or unfriend this year because of politics. People who we once thought were our friends have turned on us like rabid dogs. People take it so personally if we don’t agree with their political points of view. It’s as if we have all retreated to our own dark corners with boxing gloves on, waiting to be called out into the ring again.
I grieve the feeling that our country was once united—even with the tragedy of 9/11. Our country was going through one of the most tragic events in history, but we were in it together, terrified, angry, and grieving our loss.
We are definitely “not in this together” now. If I hear that phrase now, I feel angry because the opposite is true—we’re being pushed further apart.
We all miss the days when we could go shopping anywhere, play golf, go to a game, get a haircut or a drink with friends. What about making small talk with the stranger sitting next to us in a bar? I miss heading out into the day and feeling safe. I miss the innocence.
So how do we move on from this? How do we maintain our necessity for belonging, companionship, safety, friendship, and financial security?
I say we have to acknowledge all that we’ve lost. We should get angry about it, be sad, be wary of our uncertain future, and talk about it. Then we need to accept that we can’t change what has happened, but we can find ways to carry on with life.
So now I take the good that I can. Sure, I’m home by myself a lot, but I can enjoy my garden, my animals, the pleasure of a home-cooked meal, a Sunday drive, a warm bath, good music, a good book, and a Netflix binge.
I’m learning to be social in the midst of social distancing by getting to know my baristas and grocery store clerks, chatting it up with our masks on. I put on my mask and just forget about it. I go out into town, shop, eat, talk to people in line waiting to order at the local café. I share the vegetables from my garden with my neighbors. I Facebook, Twitter, and make phone calls to people I care about. I go on long walks and get my exercise. I delve into my hobbies. I may even try Internet dating. It might be kind of awkward at first, but life has to move forward.
So find the small things around you which you can enjoy and be grateful for.
We have to find ways to get our endorphins going again. We may grieve for all we’ve lost, but we can definitely look to 2021 as a way of learning to move on after a loss or death.
Yes, it hurts, and damn straight we’re angry and sad. But we have to let the freshwater in order to wash away our pain. People will naturally gravitate to one another. That can’t be taken away—it’s part of our humanity.
We will work around things.
We will pick ourselves up and rebuild our world where the fire has burned the ground.
The green grass, the trees, and the clean air will return. It will be fresh and new again.
It’s time to walk out into the light again. So let’s just don our masks and carry on.